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Live Like There's No Tomorrow: Hold On to Memories

The gravity and finality of an end, any end, is never clear until it happens. Procrastination is a major character flaw for me. I wait until the last minute to get things done. I put things off. I feel like there will always be more time, and I’m usually right. I can usually knock things out last minute. I tend to pull our school yearbook together at the last second even though I could have worked on it a little at a time for months. I turn papers in on the wire. I do tend to thrive in the chaos and work well under pressure.

However, there are things that are so abrupt and so quick and so final that the deadline is just that. No do-overs. No extra time. No half credit for being late. You can’t push these dates.

Things I wish I had said

I have this thing where I don’t like to go to bed mad. I don’t like leaving things unresolved. It drives me insane to know that someone I care about is mad at me. I’ll usually work pretty tirelessly to attempt to make things right. I can’t quite express how strongly I feel about this, and how strongly I would advise you to attempt to make amends on a small scale on a daily basis. Apologize even if you don’t feel like you were wrong. Hurt feelings are hurt feelings.

Fix what you can. Say the things you need to say. Tell people they are important. Tell family and friends that they are loved. We never know when a traumatic brain injury or luck of the draw or a million other factors could lead to memory loss, dementia, or more specifically, Alzheimer’s disease, in a loved one.

For us, it was sudden, and we never saw the man we knew as Daddy as whole anymore. There were no long and rambling conversations to be had after the brain hemorrhage. None that were decipherable anyway.

Things I wish I had asked

You’re going to have moments after a parent or loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. You will have moments after they die, as well. You’re going to wish you had really picked that person’s brain. You’re going to wish you’d asked a million questions while they were here or before their condition set in.

If you are lucky enough to be in the presence of an older person, soak up as much knowledge as you can. They have volumes of it. Have conversations often about their past, about their family, about the people they knew, about the places they went, about the jobs they held, about their long lost friends.

You’re going to want to know everything after they can’t tell you or after they’re gone. I can not tell you how many times we have said “Daddy would know” or Granddaddy or Aunt Cleon or whoever would know. So much goes with them. Keep what you can.

Things I wish I had done

There are a million things I wish I would have done. So, here are few things for your own to-do list. Have the conversations. Record them. Write them down. Listen to the stories you have heard a million times. You will lose details over time, and there may not always be someone around to fill in the gaps.

Document everything. Label old photos with dates, people, places, and as many details as you can gather. Take photographs of yourself and your loved ones. You’ll want those when they’re gone. Video your family and friends talking. Let them ramble on and tell stories and throw in the larger-than-life, unbelievable, and impossible details. You can’t replace, and can never quite accurately recall a person’s voice or the way their eyes dance when they talk. Capture it while you can.

Sooner or later, memories fail. Words fail. Maybe even your own. Gather it all up before there is a chance of it being gone forever. These days and weeks and years seem long and never-ending, and sometimes even unimportant, but it can all end in a flash. You’ll go on. You’ll keep moving, but don’t pack too lightly. You’re going to want what you once had after it has faded out of sight.

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